…my true love gave to me: a flock of sheep for the tree!
Back in the days of Craftster (RIP), I participated in the Sweat Shoppe Ornament Swap a couple of times. Basically, you’d create three or six ornaments – usually similar if not actual clones of one another – and be partnered up with three or six people to swap one for one. It was really kind of lovely because you could get your ornaments made well ahead of time and then just wait for your partners’ information. Craftster’s successor, Lettucecraft, is still in its infancy and the swap process has been a little different, and there was no SSOS this year.
Being me, I had already found a pattern I had wanted to use, and wound up making a few anyway.
I added some miniature 1:12 (I think?) lights that weren’t called for in the pattern, but took these from just being sheep to actually being Christmas sheep, and therein lies the difference.
These were really simple to make! My first one came to life during a conference call that required nothing from me apart from confirming my presence during roll call and answering the icebreaker question, and I completed the next two over a few evening phone calls with friends.
When I started making these, I couldn’t decide whether their overall vibe was “Fleece Navidad” or “Baaaaa Humbug”, but my “focus group” overwhelmingly preferred the former.
I call them a flock of sheep at the top of this post, but pity the poor collie who has to herd them: they wound up with (or are in the process of making their way to) friends in three different countries.
If the SSOS ever comes back, I might have to revisit these little guys. Love ’em!
It’s no secret that I love Satsuma Street design, like this one and this one. This year, I bought Mister Cat after ogling it for what feels like ages. On Etsy, you can buy either the PDF pattern or the kit; I bought the kit from 123Stitch since I already had an order going.
What I liked:
it’s a Halloween cat, duh
her designs are always so colourful and fun
the kit came with black perforated paper, so I didn’t have to buy a whole package of it
What I didn’t like:
the black perforated paper was a bit of a pain to see (like black aida cloth, so no surprise there)
I ran short of three – count ’em, three – colours of the threads included. I am not a novice stitcher who has no idea how to get the most out of her materials, and I didn’t have to unpick and waste any thread, so WTH, people? One, I might understand, but three?
And because I’m a masochistic weirdo, I documented my progress in a series of photographs and turned them into a stop-motion video:
I’m pretty happy with how he came out, despite my issues with the kit. I might have to leave him out year-round just to enjoy him.
Did you know that Darth Vader never uttered the words “Luke, I am your father”? And that Humphrey Bogart’s Rick didn’t actually tell the piano player to “Play it again, Sam”? If you’re swearing up and down right now that those are the right lines, darn it – and maybe you also remember reading Berenstein Bears books as a kid – you’re likely experiencing the Mandela Effect. It’s a psychological phenomenon in which large numbers of people share the same false memory, and so named after the false memory many people share of Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1980s (he didn’t, as you might have suspected). This article provides some great examples – as a psych major, I love how weirdly fallible the human memory is.
What does any of that have to do with this project? Nothing, really, except for a common misspelling of near-homophones. Mandela was an anti-apartheid revolutionary. A mandala is a geometric figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism.
Guess which one I recently stitched up for the Hoopless Hoopla swap on Lettucecraft?
My partner mentioned she’d like something featuring blue, pink, and/or gold, and had listed mandalas as one of her themes, and it felt like a perfect dovetailing of aesthetics. When I set about searching for a design, I inadvertently saved the same one twice, which I took as a sign that it was the one.
I don’t know who designed this, but isn’t it gorgeous? When I looked at it, my eye automatically divided it into three sections, and I decided an ombre effect would suit it perfectly.
I used DMC shades 3843, 3845, and 3846, the latter of which used a huuuuuge amount because I neglected to account for the fact that each successive “ring” would be so much larger than the last. I had enough, but boy, was I kicking myself for picking a design with such an intricate outer circle.
(And honestly, despite my griping, it’s not that big: only five inches across.)
Some gold seed beads added a touch of elegance and brought the design up to the next level. I agonized over the beads longer than I should have, and tried about ten different iterations of seed beads vs. E beads vs. both, but in the end decided to keep them small and subtle.
I was pleased with how this came out and hoped that my partner would like it, too (spoiler alert: she did). But I positively squealed at the cuteness of what she sent me:
Isn’t that lovely? I love the elegance of blackwork, and those tiny pops of red in the flowers positively make this.
This past Thursday, I happened to find myself on someone else’s blog (also hosted by WordPress) and I saw a notification alert in the upper right-hand side of my screen. When I clicked on it, a message popped up congratulating me on my 12-year anniversary of running this blog. Well, then. The date didn’t even occur to me in the days leading up to it, and I didn’t (and don’t) have some sort of special anniversary post planned.
Instead, submitted for your approval, I have two long-finished, never-posted projects.
First up: A Lively Tune by Louise Gregoire Originals. This one j-u-u-ust got framed this winter (pre-quarantining).
The eagle-eyed among you will notice this was actually completed back in 2016 – that’s how long it took for a frame to be decided on – but I started it probably 15 years earlier. It was one of those projects that kept getting put aside because something else took priority. When I studied Ukrainian in university, we watched a National Film Board production called “Teach Me to Dance” (Navche meni tantsjuvate), and every time I picked this up to work on it, that was what crossed my mind and not the actual name of the design. The boy with his wind instrument (surely not a clarinet) seems secondary to the two who are dancing.
Finding a frame took ages. When it was finally decided that yes, this should be framed, it was discovered that a standard 8″ x 10″ was going to be a fraction too small, and cut off some of the background. But lo, Michaels had an 8 1/2″ x 11″ frame that let everything show without a ton of extra blank space.
My mom decided that it needed to go in the hallway, across from another Ukrainian-themed piece I stitched.
This one is a bit *cough*a lot*cough* older: a sampler featuring the Ukrainian alphabet. I designed it myself to hang in my grandfather’s room in the seniors’ home, modifying a Roman alphabet I found in a design book, and adding a few little bits of traditional design for interest. We used to have to recite that in class, and while it’s one thing to be four or five and reciting your A-B-C’s in kindergarten, it’s quite another to be 19 and stumbling over your ah-beh-veh’s. In any case, after he passed away, we got it back, and it’s now hanging in my parents’ hallway.
(Fun fact: the “soft sign” – the very last character, at the far right of the bottom row – doesn’t actually have a capital version. It’s not a letter per se, but a way to modify sounds the other letters make. I’m not really sure why I gave it its own capital. Symmetry, probably.)
Soooo…a few weeks after the last swap of Craftster/first swap of Lettucecraft wrapped up completely, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a little ‘zine-type booklet in the mail from the organizer. She had made a list of some of her own little good things (like big fluffy cats, fun clothes, oak trees, etc.) and sketched out a small cartoon for each one before photocopying the whole shebang and sending one to every swap participant. How cool was that?
I wanted to send her something back, but what? I like it when crafts can be functional as well as pretty, and somewhere along the line I hit on the idea of a hand-embroidered monogrammed handkerchief. I know the thought of handkerchiefs grosses some people out, but I envisioned this being the perfect accessory for delicately wiping away a tear of joy at a summer wedding, not handling winter-level snotty output. I mean, the handkerchief, at least, won’t fall to shreds after bouncing around one’s purse or being balled up in one’s hot little hand, so there’s that. (This is back when the virus was a problem for other continents, and there was no conceivable reason that there might not be summer weddings. Oh, how I laugh now at my childlike naivete.)
That was nearly two months ago, and I’ve yet to hear boo from her about it. There are lots of reasons that could have happened, right?
The Canada Post/USPS liaison I’ve come to rely on has finally failed me, and it’s lost somewhere in the bowels of the postal system. Maybe it’s just due to the newfound slowness of everything, or maybe USPS squeezed the benign-looking greeting card envelope and was alarmed by it’s plush squishiness and had it destroyed, or maybe the envelope glue gave out and there’s a card and a handkerchief sitting loose and unclaimed somewhere.
The postal system did its job, but as I forgot to add my Lettucecraft handle to the card when I signed it, the recipient has no idea who her mysterious benefactor of such beautiful, heirloom-quality linens is.
It made it to its destination in a prompt and timely fashion, completely unscathed by its rather plebeian form of transport, and…she can’t believe that someone sent her this. A handkerchief? How disgusting! This is the 21st century, people, and Kleenex were invented for a reason! Ugh! It’s things like this that help viruses proliferate. And anyway, this is ug-leee! Those colours assault my delicate eyes!
Of those above, which one feels the most likely? And yet, which one does my mind jump to?
In any case, even if she positively hated it, I was pleased with how it turned out. I used the white handkerchiefs from Sublime Stitching, and they are honestly so perfect. I washed them before starting to embroider in order to remove any sizing, and they’re soft and delicate but not totally papery.
Here, in all its 12″ x 12″ glory, you can see the pattern of the floor beneath it faintly.
Once it’s folded into quarters, you get a slightly better sense (maybe) of how wonderfully soft the fabric really is – that drape, though.
A close-up of the embroidery! I used this pattern, which is probably something I would never have bought for myself, but I love how it turned out. I used stem stitch for the A, satin stitch (outlined with backstitch) for the petals, lazy daisy for the leaves, and a single French knot for the centre of the flower.
I’ve still got three hankies left from the package…I might have to stitch up one for myself, because wedding season is bound to resume sooner or later.
Happy Grammar Day! I did not craft some lovely, grammatically sound work of art (nor did I invite the strippers, JFK and Stalin. Always use your Oxford commas, people!), so I’ll leave you with this because it makes me smile.
Oh, Jasper…watch out for that pencil sharpener…
But back to our regularly scheduled crafty post, and apologies for the bait-and-switch.
Back in December, Craftster closed the membership part of its site, leaving a bunch of us without a crafty place to call home. (The site still exists, but in archive mode, and you can still look up projects assuming the original poster didn’t take down her pictures.) Just before that unpleasant little announcement was made, one of the members had started gauging enthusiasm for a Little Good Things swap: we’d send our partner something quick and simple, that took two hours-ish to make, plus a sweet treat and a little card telling what one of our personal little good things was. I liked the idea of a quick turnaround, and if I was considering it before the announcement, the fact that it would be the last Craftster swap ever sealed the deal.
I wasn’t the only one thinking like that: this thing turned out to be epic, with 50 participants (something that hadn’t happened there in years) and zero flakers. I requested two partners, and although there was a bit of overlap between their questionnaires and likes, I wanted to make sure I didn’t send twin packages.
My first partner mentioned adult merit badges as a little good thing, and I thought this would be a fitting way to commemorate her time as a member of the site. I cut two 3″ circles out of light blue felt, and then resized an image of Craftster’s mascot (unofficially known as “Cork Guy”; I don’t think he has a name) to fit and cut him out of felt, too. Cork Guy and the dates were sewn only onto one circle, and then I attached the second one with a rainbow blanket stitch to hide the back of my work. The numbers really set my nerves on edge, trying to make them a) the correct size and b) legible. But oh! I got to use math to figure out how long each colour of blanket stitch should be: πd / six colours = 1.57″ per colour.
Although my second partner had also mentioned adult merit badges, I wanted to go a different route. Her questionnaire declared stormy weather to be a little good thing, particularly if she didn’t have to go out in it. The darker blue fabric with the silver streaks reminded me of lightning streaking across the sky, so I paired it with a bright-sky blue fabric to make a 6″ x 8″ mug rug. There’s a layer of fleece in between to offer a bit of extra cushioning and absorbency. To round out the “cozy night in” theme, I sent a few individually wrapped tea bags and some chocolate.
There’s a happy ending to the Craftster trauma: almost immediately after its closure was announced, a few of the moderators put their heads together and launched a new crafty community. Lettucecraft (Just Let. Us. Craft.) has been up and running since January 1, and it’s already full of crafty inspiration.
…my true love gave to me: a Christmas fit for Elvis Presley!
Having once participated in the Sweat Shoppe Ornament Swap on Craftster, I knew immediately I was going to do it again. This year, I was a little more prepared, and had been lazily working on my ornaments throughout the year so that all I had to do once signups began was finish them off and name them.
Name them – sounds weird, doesn’t it? Last year I called my set Festive Foxes (a bit lame, but it was my first time out). This year, I wrestled with the name a bit. Fairisle Festivities? Scandinavian Season’s Greetings? Three-inch hoops that look vaguely like a knitted sweater? Suddenly, inspiration struck: Blue Christmas.
The patterns came from an issue of Cross Stitch Crazy I bought last year. I really liked the designs, but couldn’t imagine making them for myself or anyone I know – nobody I know really has that particular theme running through their holiday décor. The swap turned out to be the perfect outlet!
To stitch them, I cut one long strip of 14-count white aida fabric, eyeballed thirds, and kept moving my Q-Snap down as I went – then cut them apart when it was time to frame them. I took plain 3″ wooden hoops from Michaels (I stock up every time they have them in stock) and painted them with white acrylic paint, then sprayed them with an iridescent white glittery spray paint. I had some iridescent white cording on hand for the hanging loops, and I’m hoping that they catch the light on my recipients’ trees.
In a more “natural” habitat (no tree up yet, so I trekked to the furthest reaches of the back yard to the cedar tree I normally forget is there):
The one with the deer has made it to its new home, and the other two are currently in transit. Fingers crossed they arrive soon! I’ve already received two of the three I’m getting:
It says “Craftster Christmas 2019”, with some rows of lights stamped between the lettering. The flash photography doesn’t do it justice, but I was having short days/snowy weather lighting issues when they first arrived.
Seriously, how is this little guy so relaxed about Christmas prep? And where did the crafter find little star-shaped baking tins like that? I love the aesthetic of it!
I finally got my last one! It’s a simple wooden disk with an intricate series of dots and gemstones that don’t show as well in this picture.
A little while ago, I was part of an ATC Address Card swap on Craftster. (An ATC, for the uninitiated – as I was – is an Artist Trading Card; you can read all about them here.) The idea was that you would create cards for four swap partners that featured your name and address on one side and a brief biography and/or likes and dislikes on the other, so that you would be able to exchange birthday cards, random crafted items, or even swap stash. I’m a sucker for anything that might mean more mail coming my way, and despite not being a papercrafter (or, um, able to draw) I was on it.
One of my partners went completely above and beyond, and I was shocked to receive an envelope too large and too fat to hold just a 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ card. She had filled this thing to the gills with assorted pieces of cardstock, embellishments…all sorts of different colours and textures to play with. As soon as I opened it, I knew I’d have to come up with something amazing to send her. I’m not a papercrafter, though, so I played to my strengths, and when I saw the pattern in my stitching stash, I knew I had found my something.
The pattern is by Emma Congdon, but I changed up the colours a bit and really prefer the rich green to the original shades of yellow. I love typography, and given that the recipient is a prolific and multi-talented crafter, this was just too perfect for her.
She wasn’t expecting anything and so this proved to be a complete surprise when she came home after work one day to find it in the mailbox. And really, isn’t that the best kind of mail?
Nostalgia makes everything better, doesn’t it? Food is tastier, music is better…all because of the memories associated with it.
When the “I Love the 80s” swap showed up on Craftster, I was so, so in. The cartoons! The neon colours! I think that was probably the first generation of kids that was marketed to hardcore by businesses, and it showed in the Pinterest rabbit hole I found myself falling down. I think I could have made a career (if a low-paying one) out of curating just the right Popples and Strawberry Shortcake pins.
Apparently not many people feel that way, because when sign-ups closed, there were only three of us signed up. We did a round-robin swap, which sounds more family-friendly than “three-way” – Person A sent to Person B, Person B sent to Person C, and Person C sent to Person A. It was a three-point swap, which meant that your swap package should take three or more hours to craft or cost $30 or more in supplies.
I found a truly outrageous pattern to stitch up:
I found neon craft acrylics to paint the hoop, too. Between the colours and the sparkly aida fabric, it popped. But it felt kind of underwhelming on its own (despite meeting the 3-hour mark), so I made a felt-appliqué My Little Pony to go with it.
Luckily, the same purple paint complemented Glory’s mane and tail perfectly.
I felt pretty good about my package, but hoo boy, did my partner ever spoil me!
A mug rug! The 80s-est (it’s a word now) notecards ever! Even a Caboodles! But the Lisa Frank shrine really shone, and needs a little love of its own.
I was seriously blown away by her generosity, and quite frankly by the utter perfection of her choices. It seemed like if it was on my swap questionnaire, it found its way into my package. I thanked her profusely, of course, but couldn’t let that be the end, so I felt-appliquéd a hoop for her, too.
What else do you send someone who brought such cheer to your day but Cheer Bear? All right, and some chocolate, too. (By the way: that purple door in the background isn’t long for this world. Pretty soon you’ll be seeing a different backdrop for hanging crafts.)
This all culminated in mutual goodwill, and I was a little sad to see it all over – this was probably the most fun I had ever had in a swap, playing with the colours and characters. As it turned out, one of the Craftster members hadn’t been able to take part in the official swap, and so with a brief private-message exchange, we were able to work out details of a private swap.
My new partner was a collector of My Little Pony as well, and in the course of our exchange, I quickly hit on exactly what I had to make for her.
And Medley! (I’ve also seen it spelled “Melody”, and if someone knows which is right, let me know.) Gaah, the detailing on her wings stressed me out. I kept worrying the definition wouldn’t come through.
I still wanted to include something else with them – I might be a lot of things, but I’m no one-trick pony (ha!). While Googling the Wuzzles at work one day, I discovered just what an amazing collection of vocal talent that show had. Bill Scott (you might know him as Bullwinkle J. Moose, Dudley Do-Right, Mr. Peabody…) was on it, but – and this is what did it for me – so were Henry Gibson and Joanne Worley. I had never heard of them, or of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, as a kid, but present-day Witty Child just about fell out of her chair.
But how to immortalize their characters? More felt appliqué? Nah. Embroidery would be nice, but I’d want to do a fill stitch of some sort to capture the colours better than an outline alone could do, and I didn’t have the time for that. And for the first time ever, Michaels provided me with something useful, in the form of fabric markers.
The markers gave me the colours I was looking for, and worked really well on the tea towels I used. They even held up after being washed, and I can’t imagine how many hours and needle-induced callouses they saved me.
It seems that my partner and I were kind of on the same wavelength, because I got home one day after work to find these waiting for me:
Felt-appliquéd My Little Ponies! Cotton Candy will always be #1 in my books. And Lisa Frank kittens! That neon yellow on both of them (fleece for the ponies, and embroidery floss for the kitten) positively draws the eye. Who am I kidding, I can’t stop looking at either one of them.
When I signed up for the 2019 edition of the Colour in a Box Swap on Craftster, my mind danced with possibilities. I had done it a couple of years ago, when it was the Sunshine in a Box Swap, but everything was in sunny shades of orange and yellow. This time, I had limitless options. I chose pink as my colour, and couldn’t wait to see what bright hue my partner had picked. Ooh, or maybe that would be hues, plural! When I saw her colour was navy, I was temporarily flummoxed.
It’s so dark. Wasn’t that akin to sending a big box of gloom?
Still, if navy was what she wanted, navy was what she was going to get, and I scanned her Pinterest for ideas (gleaning a few Christmas ornament how-to’s along the way), until I hit a pocket of beachy Pins. Something sea-y would work well! A quick trip to Michaels later, I had two packages of iron-on embroidery transfers and a set of blank, navy-striped tea towels.
I’m pretty sure the lighthouse design is bigger, but it went more quickly than the beach chair one did. Weird.
I kept things super-simple, and used a basic backstitch to outline everything. Partway through the first one, I panicked – although I knew I was using navy thread, it looked almost black. (Though this clearly didn’t panic me enough to stop stitching and switch colours. Go figure.) It must have just been a trick of the light, because when my partner received her package and posted pictures, the lines were definitely navy. *whew*
I also made her the Poochie bag we all know and love from a couple of posts back:
I stuffed the bag with some navy goodies: blueberry-scented votive candles, a tin of blueberry mints, some washi tape, navy gel pens…
I couldn’t wait to see how she ran with my request for pink, and I wasn’t disappointed!
I can’t knit, and so I’m in utter awe of the cabling on the hat. The texture…oooh! (The unicorn lights, of course, went straight to work with me to brighten up my cube.)